My senior year of high school happened during the infamous 2000 Presidential Election.
And because most of us were at least a few months shy of being able to actually vote, we held an election at my school. Now, I don’t remember the exact tally (because I’m old y’all — for real), but it was basically a landslide for Al Gore. I mean, such a landslide that even though I knew it would be closer in real life, I was genuinely shocked by just how close it ended up being. And then, even more so, that George W. Bush won* (it will always have an asterisk by it, as far as I’m concerned).
I can’t begin to describe to you how devastated we all were that we couldn’t have actually voted when those results came in.
I mean, we wanted to vote before then. But we REALLY wished we could have voted after.
And I’ve yet to let an election pass by since then where I haven’t voted. Mostly because I didn’t want to experience that feeling again. That feeling that if I could have/if I would have just voted, then maybe the outcome would be different. But also because I knew, even then, that as a black woman, I stood on the shoulders of two groups of people who had to fight for the right to vote in this country. And I didn’t want to let them down.
There will be lots of people who speak differently today. Who say and believe that voting doesn’t make a difference. They will say that your vote does not count. Or that it’s not worth the hassle. That it’s all rigged anyway. Or even that the candidates are all the same, so who cares who wins?
But I say that if you have ever wanted to express yourself and your opinions on the matters that affect your community, voting is one of the most powerful ways to do it. By voting, you effectively say — “I stand for this.”
And in a country where too many people feel that their voices are unheard, far too many let that opportunity slip on by. Far too many of us purposely put ourselves in the position to end up just like me and my classmates in November 2000 — wishing we could have made a difference, but powerless to do anything about it.
Don’t let that happen to you. Not on this day. Not for this election.
If you haven’t voted already (by early voting or absentee), please do so today.
And when you’re done, encourage someone else to vote too.